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Outer Space is a strange and scary place. It holds unexplored secrets. New life is probably out there to find. Movie franchises seem to die when they go there. There was even a race to get out there, and now tourism is starting up. It really is the final frontier, especially for movies. Video games, however have a much better chance for life when they’re set out there, even for small, indie developers.
Star Command is the long-awaited result of years of development and funding. Announced in March of 2011, a Kickstaryer was launched to support funding of the newly formed War Balloon Games. Unfortunately the money ran out, as the game proved more complex than originally anticipated. A second Kickstarter was launched in 2012, and the game finally launched through the App Store for iOS on May 2nd, 2013. Well worth the wait.
A New Hope
The game plays as a Real-Time Strategy game with elements of a Starship Simulation. Your avatar commands a ship, the size of which changes over multiple playthroughs. The vessel has multiple corridors and empty rooms which you build support structures in, like medical bays, defensive stations and weapon ports. When these rooms are occupied with crew members, they change their uniform and gain an ability in a very Star Trek fashion: science officers have a nice blue costume and can heal fellow crew members, Engineers and Technical Officers can repair damge to the ship in yellow and combat support or Bridge crew gain weapons with their red shirts (don’t worry, they’re all named). You receive missions from Communications and you’re off to explore the galaxy!
Sometimes combat is your only option
Exploration is, of course, limited to the mission you’re on or a home base in the system. Usually you find a ship or situation already in progress. You hail or are hailed by them, a dialogue plays out and usually a ship-to-ship combat begins. This is where the game reveals its genius.
The Empire Strikes Back
Machine guns get a lot of shots, but miss one timed press…
There are two distinct combat levels, off-board and on-board. Off-board combat is a traditional ship vs ship fight. Each vessel charges its weapons, yours based on the number of crew in a specific weapon’s room. When your weapon is charged you play a short mini-game to maximize the number of hits and the damage is done. Shields initially protect ships before hull damage is taken. Defense is as easy as a finger tap, but “ammunition” for Shield Boosts and Dodge Generators must be available, and can be created in the specific room by its crew.
Enemies can commit your crew to the void, too
Then there’s on-board combat. If an enemy brings down your shields, which will eventually happen, they may send a boarding party over to your ship to fry your crew. Your red shirts will be able to fight the intruders, but unless they come from the Bridge, they will have to come from a weapons post, slowing your ability to fight the enemy ship. And the enemy ship doesn’t slow down its attack just because it has attackers aboard. There’s also the issue of damage to your ship. Fires cause damage to your crew as well. A yellow shirt can put the fires out and repair the damage, but if a hole is blown in your ship, any crew nearby will be sucked out into the void, never to be seen again. Laser wounds can heal. Explosive decompression, not so much.
The heated conflicts of battle are well balanced out by the humor. References to major Sci-Fi properties like Star Trek and Star Wars are visible throughout, though the original writing is quite good itself. More than a few times I caught myself giggling at a reference that almost slipped by.
Return of the Jedi
We are the Grol. We are free from action due to Fair Use. Resisting is unnecessary.
A strange but interesting move was the art design. Your on-board avatar, crew members and enemy units consist of classic sprite art that makes identification easy even in battle, while ship illustration and communication backdrops are much more detailed and quite frankly gorgeous, even when zoomed in. Sound could use some work, especially considering the absent-at-points music and the great tradition of Sci-Fi orchestral backing. However as an iOS game, this one definitely covers its cost with valuable time-killing and is a wonderful first effort from War Balloon. Definitely recommended for Sci-Fi fans (specifically Star Trek ones) and strategy buffs as well.
Star Command is Rated 9+ by the App Store for Frequent/Intense Cartoon or Fantasy Violence and Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor. It is currently available for iOS, though Android and PC versions are in development as well.
Anyone have an opinion on this one? Even disagreement? Drop a comment below to discuss it!